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 Post subject: To Shoe, Or Not To Shoe
PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:25 am 
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Joined: Sun May 23, 2010 7:14 am
Posts: 24
That IS the question, whether it's winter or not. People have been slapping iron on the bottom of horse's feet for hundreds of years. Better wear, easier for the horse to walk on hard ground, less chipping of the hooves, less hassle on the trail. So what's the big deal?

One thing to remember is that the horse has no muscle below the knee or the hock. The horse's hoof looks solid and hard, but is acutally quite flexible and the frog acts as a pump with each step. When we nail steel onto the bottom of the hoof and conform the hoof wall to a stationary position, the pump doesn't work as well. When thermographic photos are taken of the horse's legs with and without shoes, there is a distinct difference in color. No shoes--red images of a nice warm leg. Shoes--blue and cold leg. You can feel it for your self, just compare the temperature of the legs of a horse with and another without shoes.

In winter, the cold metal on the frozen ground is dangerous since metal can't grip as well as a natural hoof. Slipping, sliding hooves are not my idea of a fun time. And let's not forget about the snow ball buildup so the horse is walking about on stilts. Sure, you can spray PAM cooking spray or Pledge furniture polish on the bottom of the hooves, or you can rub Crisco on them or Vaseline (I've tried them all), but the bottom line is, metal on ice is not a stellar idea in my book. Still, there are options. You can add cleats--little stubby metal things that allow for better traction on the ice--and yes, they do work. Thing that always bothered me about those though, is that simple physics problem of: Shoe sticking into ice and horse spins on his leg getting away from another or simply turning a corner.

What gives? Not the cleat or the shoe, that's for sure. The horse's body is what gives; his own bones, tendons and ligaments that are not made of steel. This possibility is worrisome to me though others are not concerned.

Now every blacksmith and farrier I've ever talked to about this has conceded that the above "Could" happen, but that it doesn'. The "Could" part of the equation always bothered me enough to keep my guys barefooted. Actually, I haven't shod a horse in over 15 years and I ride in the Rocky Mountains on yes, rocky terrain. I do carry boots for the worst of the rocky trails, but for the most part, I just don't need them much.

Some horses do need shoes. Not because they 'Wear their feet off". I've certainly never seen a horse with no hooves, have you? Though I've sure heard that enough times to make me look... No, some horses' feet are just too soft. Or too misshapen due to bad conformation (due to poor breeding but I won't go down that trail here) that they simply can't walk on the rocks without being so gimpy you begin to feel that them carrying you is just wrong and perhaps you ought to swap places. Some horses need shoes because they live in pasture and that's comparable to walking only on carpet with slippers on for us. There is not enough 'trauma' to the foot to encourage a callous to form and once off their carpeting, they just can't walk. With or without a rider. Yes, these horses need shoes.

If a horse is being used for long trail rides on a regular basis, they may benefit from shoes too. It really just depends on where the horse lives, how he's built, the terrain he tavels and the owner's preference. But in the winter, I firmly believe that most, if not all horses who are sound and healthy should not be shod.

Some websites on Natural hoof trimming are: ... mming.html

Tanya Buck

*******PRIVATE one hour riding lesson for $50, (normally $75) with mention of
, email; must be within 20 miles of Conifer, CO

Tanya Buck was born and raised in Carmel, California, where she grew up on a small ranch. A graduate of UC Davis, she majored in Animal Science with a concentration in Equine Reproduction, and a minor in English.

She is certified through UC Davis as an Equine Breeding Manager, is a certified horse show judge, and a Reiki Master. Currently, Tanya and her husband live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with five horses, four dogs, three cats, a couple of parrots and a bunch of fish.

Besides her passion for horses, Tanya is an avid Scuba diver, an active bicyclist, and loves to hike, snowshoe, read and write. She is currently working on two books, one fiction that needs an agent now, and a creative nonfiction about training horses written from the horse's point of view.

Tanya has been helping to bridge the communication gap between horses and humans for over 35 years.

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